Just inside the doors of a Lady’s Island church on Monday morning, a man tried to make himself impervious to the cold.
A knit cap was pulled down over his face, a jacket was zipped up to his chin and his hands were jammed in his pockets. He rocked back and forth on a bench in the lobby of Sea Island Presbyterian on Lady’s Island.
After a few minutes, the Rev. John Dortch of Circle of Hope Ministries pushed open the church doors wearing a heavy coat and Washington Redskins cap and ushered the man to a waiting van.
This is the fourth year the church has offered an overnight shelter during freezing weather for those in Beaufort County without homes or proper heat. And this past weekend has been the church’s highest turnout.
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“We know there is a definite need out there,” associate pastor Jack Miller said.
The most the church sheltered in past years was six in one night. On Saturday night, 17 people stayed overnight in the church fellowship hall. And on Sunday night, the church sheltered 22.
The shelter will remain open Monday night as the cold weather continued. The lows Monday night in Beaufort County were expected to reach the low 30s before temperatures begin creeping up Tuesday.
Highs will be in the 70s by the end of the week.
The shelter opened Friday night. Air mattresses were borrowed from Family Promise of Beaufort County, which serves homeless families.
After the high turnout, the American Red Cross offered additional cots.
This is the first year children have also used the shelter. They ranged in age from 5 years old to older teenagers.
Miller attributes the boost to news outlets spreading the word about the shelter being open. But there is also Dortch, who motors throughout the city in his organization’s 15-passenger van to scoop up those in need.
When the shelter closes in the morning, he returns to pick people up and drop them off in areas best suited to how they will spend their day.
Some arrive in their own cars. At least one landed a ride with law enforcement.
Calvin Sharpe’s bicycle leaned against the railing outside the church Monday morning, a blue plastic bag of aluminum cans hanging from each handlebar. Inside the fellowship hall, he worked to position the speakers of a blue boombox on the floor next to an air mattress he used the previous two nights.
Sharpe, 64, welcomed the cover and planned to stay Monday night. He often makes his bed on park swings or benches or in abandoned houses, he said.
“Open the door, and I’ll walk in,” he said before pedaling away to a doctor’s appointment.